What if you mixed the Jerry Lewis Telethon with a fundraiser to promote teen literacy and arts education? What if you centered it around a Calgary artistic icon and let his freak flag fly for six colourful, unpredictable, unforgettable hours? What if you lined up 30 of the country’s best artists and community leaders to join Eugene Stickland for performance, conversation, inspiration, and provocation? What if you broadcast it online to the world from Calgary’s most beloved café, providing a unique, accessible connection to the arts when we need it most?
You’d have Wordfest’s Eugene-A-Thon, a once-in-a-pandemic virtual gathering on Thursday, June 18, from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. MT. The marathon broadcast on Wordfest.com will beam out from Eugene Stickland’s home turf, Caffe Beano, where he has become the unofficial artist-in-residence.
• Join Wordfest’s Shelley Youngblut as she virtually welcomes guests from across North America and Europe to explore the myriad manifestations of this eccentric local legend: author, actor, playwright, musician, mentor, connector.
• Enjoy original performances by Canadian actors, poets, and musicians. Gain insights into the “new abnormal” state of the arts across Canada from Stratford’s Bob White, Alberta Ballet’s Jean Grand-Maitre, and renowned painter Chris Cran.
• Learn about the challenges of driving change through the unique perspectives of Eugene’s many mentees: emerging artists, aboriginal teens, and immigrants.
• Pop by Caffe Beano at 1613 9th Street S.W. and cheer Eugene on throughout his six-hour marathon from marked-out, physically distanced viewing spots on 9th Street S.W.
5:00 PM: WHO THE HECK IS EUGENE?
5:30 PM: PROGENITOR
5:45 PM: PLAYWRIGHT, PART ONE
6:45 PM: VISUAL ARTIST
7:15 PM: ART MONSTER
7:45 PM: PLAYWRIGHT, PART TWO
8:15 PM: PUBLISHER
8:30 PM: MENTOR
9:15 PM: POET
10:00 PM: GRAND FINALE!
Wordfest is proud to produce this unique event and cover the fees of the participating artists and community leaders. But this is a telethon — your support is requested via our online fundraising option. 2020 marks Wordfest’s 25th anniversary and the recommended donation of $25 will support Wordfest’s Youth Program, which brings the world’s best authors and artists to Calgary junior and senior-high schools at no charge to the schools. All donations will be matched up to 50% by Shaw Birdies for Kids presented by Altalink, fuelling the next generation.
Eugene Stickland was born in Regina. He began his studies at the University of Regina in music, graduated with a Honours BA in English, and then went on to Toronto’s York University where he completed an MFA in Theatre. After graduating, Eugene and some York classmates formed the ACT IV Theatre Company, producing his early plays The Family, darkness of the edge of town, and Quartet. Eugene returned to Regina briefly and taught at what is now known as the First Nations University. It was at this time his daughter Hanna came into the world (1992).
Eugene came to Calgary in 1994 with the Alberta Theatre Projects’ production of the play Some Assembly Required, which went on to have over 100 productions worldwide. He wrote nine more plays following that during a 10-year residency at ATP. In 2009, Eugene wrote a play for his friend Joyce Doolittle titled Queen Lear. After a successful run in Calgary, it went on to have a two-year run in translation in Istanbul and throughout Turkey. Following his time at ATP, Eugene wrote a popular weekly column for the Calgary Herald. In 2015, he published his first novel, The Piano Teacher, which received the W.O. Mitchell Award. His new book First and Last is the text from his first large cast play, written specifically for Calgary’s St. Mary’s University.
Eugene is completing a new novel, In My Time of Dying, as well as a new play based on the life of Saskatchewan-born American artist Agnes Martin. He lives alone in Calgary’s Beltline neighborhood.
Valerie Ann Pearson
A place of their own. A place to call home. A place to lay their head at the end of the day. A place where they can close the door on the great mad world without and chill inside alone and on their own terms.
Instead of finding that, they find they’ve been ripped off. Victimized! Thrown to the wolves! Homeless! Bereft of the one simple thing they were after: Sanctuary.
I can’t turn my back on all that and I absolutely refuse to blame the victims. At some point, we—all of us—have to open our arms, open our hearts, and say that one magic word: Welcome.